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As the much-awaited casino policy in Goa continues to remain under the wraps, state’s Agriculture Minister, Vijai Sardesai has come up with the suggestion of emulating Hong-Kong and developing a casino strip along the coastline in Panaji.
According to a Business Standard report published on November 4, Sardesai suggested that the offshore casinos operating from vessels moored over river Mandovi in Goa should be disbanded and re-located to Panaji, where the coastline should be developed with an onshore casino strip as a hub, on the lines of the Hong Kong harbor.
“The casinos housed in ships should be removed because it causes pollution and the harbour should be developed on both sides like the Hong Kong harbour. There should be a tourism circuit. This has always been our demand,” Sardesai said.
Sardesai made these statements while talking to reporters, following the latest news reports that the Goa government was planning to set up ‘casino towns’ in the coastal state.
Every year, a big number of domestic and foreign tourists visit the coastal state of Goa, and many wind up in the lively interiors of the casinos, to try their hand at gambling and poker.
Interestingly, when the BJP was in the opposition in Goa from 2007 to 2012, the party had aggressively opposed the casino operations in Goa. Top BJP leaders including Parrikar had promised to shut down the offshore casino industry after assuming power in the state.
However, since the BJP took over the reins in 2012, the Parrikar-led government toned down its stance on the casino industry.
While all the offshore casinos were directed to move base to land by March 31, 2018, early this year the state government gave a temporary breather to the casinos by extending permission to operate from river Mandovi by one year.
However at the same time, the government also ushered in a monumental hike in the casino license renewal fee, leading to the closure of two big casinos, The Crown and The Carnival.
The state government talked about relocating the offshore casinos to a land-locked location that would be developed as an entertainment zone. An area close to the airport was also reportedly earmarked for the same.
Later in August amidst mounting political pressure, chief minister Manohar Parrikar who has been struggling with health issues, assured that the government was working to crystallize the much-awaited casino policy that will bring the offshore casinos moored on River Mandovi to land. He said that areas will be identified and notified for shifting of the casinos, and once this is done, the casinos will be given a four-year period to shift to the new location.
Lately, there have been fresh reports that the state government is looking at developing coastal ‘casino towns’ where the casino activity would be limited to, and developed, moving the casinos away from river Mandovi. While the government is yet to disclose its plans yet, Sardesai’s comments give a strong indication on what could be coming up from the power corridors of the state government, for the six offshore casinos operational in the state.